December 7, 2021

Face Dances


Roger Daltrey Vocals
John Entwistle Bass Guitar & Vocals
Kenney Jones Drums
Pete Townshend Guitar, Keyboards & Vocals

Produced by Bill Szymczyk for Pandora Productions
Engineered by Bill Szymczyk and Allan Blazek
Recording Assistant Engineer Teri Reed
Mixing Assistant Engineer Jimmy Patterson
Recorded and mixed using MCI consoles and tape machines
Sleeve Concept and design by Peter Blake [Blake’s most famous album cover was for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was his idea to commission portraits of The Who from the top British painters. Francis Bacon was one notable refusal. The paintings are below with the artists’ names under them.]
Graphics by Richard Evans
Back sleeve photography and reference for the portraits by Gavin Cochrane (except the first and last Pete paintings by Brian Aris).

Rostrum camera photography by Paul Hutchings
Canvases made by Jim Moyes Compendium of Working Possibilities
Paint Box by Clive Barker [NOT the author of Hellraiser. This Clive Barker was a sculptor in the British pop art movement of the 1960’s as were many of the other contributors to this album’s cover. An odd coincidence as Pete claimed in 1965 that The Who were part of that art movement.]
Peter Blake would like to thank Chrissy, June Andrews and Chris Chappel.

Pete would like to thank Chris Ludwinski at Eel Pie, Soho, Ken Deane at Warner Bros. Studios, Los Angeles, Atlantic Studios, New York, John Walls at Air London for help with the demos, Billy Nicholls for help with the backing vocals and also thanks to Rabbit [John Bundrick] for help and inspiration on ‘Another Tricky Day’. Thanks Mo – it’s great to be home.

Liner notes by Brian Cady 

Face Dances was originally released as Polydor 2302 106 (WHOD 5073) on March 6, 1981. It reached #2 in the U.K. It was beaten at the top of the charts by Adam And The Ants’ Kings Of The Wild Frontier which, according to Richard Barnes, sold nine more copies! Entered the Billboard charts in the U.S. as Warner Bros. WB HS 3516 on April 4, 1981; it reached #4. The chart topper at the time was Styx’s Paradise Theater. Face Dances was awarded platinum status (1 million sold) on September 18, 1981. The original vinyl pressings of Face Dances included a full color poster of the cover art

The album’s original title was simply The WhoFace Dances was a last minute substitution. Pete Townshend: "There was a girl that I knew and she was sitting looking in the mirror and she had a match between her teeth [which she was moving to a beat] while she was doing her eyes. I said to her ‘face dances’ and she just laughed. It was only later that someone pointed out to me that in the Dune trilogy there are a group of characters called ‘face dancers,’ sort of like chameleons; they can change completely for special purposes. That must have stuck in my head because I really loved the first one." "Face Dances, Part Two," which appears on Pete’s All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes, was written after the Face Dances album was recorded and was never offered to The Who.

Face Dances began with an auspicious $12 million contract by The Who to record three albums with a new label, Warner Bros., signed in December 1979 or January 1980. Shortly before, Pete had also signed a handsome contract with Atlantic Records to record as a solo artist. Never the most prolific of writers, Pete now found himself having to supply songs for both his band and himself. In addition Pete was itching to take the band in a different musical direction. Pete Townshend: "Empty Glass wasn’t particularlyavant-garde, but it was interesting to me because I was able to do the kind of variety of material that The Who used to do. On our first two albums we did stuff that ranged from comedy songs through tender love ballads to just general insanity. Having enjoyed it as a solo performer I thought why can’t the band do it?"

As if the contracts and the increased workload were not pressure enough, Pete’s personal life was also collapsing. His wife Karen had kicked him out of the house for his excessive drinking and for the first time since 1967 he began using drugs, in this case cocaine, while living the high life in London and running through a succession of mistresses. Pete’s solo album Empty Glass may have been selling very well, but Pete was becoming an emotional mess, falling in love with unattainable women, racked with guilt over the death of eleven Who fans in Cincinnati and his own place as a rich member of the English society he had once held in contempt. 

Pete was not the only one with troubles at home. Both John’s and Kenney’s marriages were coming to an end around the time of the recording of Face Dances and both were putting away a lot of booze. Kenney had had a successful run in 1979 as Keith Moon’s replacement being widely praised by critics and Who fans alike (a fact often forgotten now) but, except for some unbilled tracks on the Quadrophenia Soundtrack, he had yet to record new songs in the studio with the band. Of the four only Roger was then on the ascendancy, having just completed his personal film McVicar which promised to give him an alternative to being The Who’s front man.

Pete recorded most of the demos for Face Dances in January through March 1980. In addition to the songs listed below, Pete also recorded "Theresa", a very personal song that would later be recorded by The Who as "Athena", "What Is Love", "Popular" which would later be re-written as "It’s Hard" and "Dance It Away" which was released as a solo Pete version on the flip side of "Uniforms" in the U.K. The band’s reaction to the new songs was noticably cool.  Pete later said about a demo tape of songs for Face Dances, "when I played them [for the band] nobody said anything, not a dicky bird.  Eventually Rabbit said, ‘I like such and such a song, that has some good bits in it.’ He was trying to be positive because he was aware of this big pregnant silence.  I just picked up the tape and walked out."

The recording of the album, which was listed in The Who’s fan club newsletter as beginning on February 18, 1980 (this may have been the date when the first batch of demos was played for the band) was helmed by American producer Bill Szymczyk at Odyssey Studios, London. Szymczyk was then known primarily as the producer of The Eagles, a very successful band commercially but one with a very different sound from The Who. He was probably recommended to Pete by his friend and then Eagles’ guitarist Joe Walsh. John Entwistle: "He recorded everything in groups of three. I don’t like playing a backing track too many times. We’d get a really good one and he’d say ‘Give me three more exactly the same’. I lost a lot of confidence worrying about being brainwashed by the song, so I didn’t play as loosely as I might have." If there was any recording in February or March it was soon interrupted by a Spring tour of Europe and North America (March 26-May 7) followed by another Summer tour of North America (June 18-July 16).

Before recording could begin again Szymczyk was injured in a car accident in Miami and then was called to mix The Eagles’ live album. Recording resumed by November and continued to December. The Who heard the preliminary mix on the playback monitors where it sounded fine. Afterward, Szymczyk took the tapes to his own Bayshore Recording Studios in Coconut Grove, Florida for the final mix. The rest of the band couldn’t get to Florida to participate because they were then rehearsing for the upcoming U.K. tour, so Pete flew over but only made a few suggestions. The Who didn’t like the final mix. When Kenney was handed the pressing he refused to listen to it saying that he hated the mix, so why would he want to hear the pressing? 

Although the album sold well, The Who agreed that Face Dances was their least successful studio effort. Pete Townshend: "It was ineffective; it didn’t work. I think the songs weren’t right for the band. I can probably get more introspective and examine myself more on [my solo] records than anybody else I know and get away with it. I can get all curled up in myself and people don’t mind too much. Can’t do that with The Who." Roger Daltrey: "I quite like the material on Face Dances — I think Pete did a great job on the material — but the band failed him for the first time." John Entwistle: "Pete didn’t write the guitar solos into his songs and keyboards took a much stronger part than guitar. We tended to use keyboards whether or not the song needed it. The guitar was the instrument that suffered. When we looked back at the end the only two strong guitar songs were my two."